Lawsuits Against Radio Stations (and A Restaurant)
Radio stations have been the perpetrators of some funny bits and classic pranks over the years. However, they can sometimes go too far. Going to far on a prank has gotten them in legal trouble on more than one occasion. You would think that they would learn their lesson, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. The ultimate radio station prank that went too far is probably the Orson Wells “War of the Worlds” broadcast that scared listeners into thinking the Martians had attacked earth. Let’s look at a couple of lawsuits brought against radio stations that were trying to pull the wool over the eyes of their listeners.
The Toy Hummer Vs. Real Hummer Vehicle Prize
In 2005, Bakersfield, California radio station KDBS “The Play” 103.9 FM held a contest where they claimed the winner would receive a Hummer. The contest started in late March and required the contestants to determine the number of miles that two Hummers had supposedly driven around the town during the course of the week. The answer was 103.9, the same as the radio station’s frequency. Two people came up with this answer.
Naturally, many of the people who called in and played on the week long contest believed they would win an actual Hummer and not the remote controlled toy that they presented to winner Shannon Castillo. After winning the contest, she and another winner were presented with the remote controls toys. As you can imagine, they were not pleased at all. Castillo hired an attorney who said that the station had indicated that the vehicle had 22” rims, which would lead anyone to believe that they were playing for and that they would actually win a real vehicle. She filed her suit on June 21 of 2005 for $60,000.
A Hundred Grand
Another case involving a duplicitous radio station happened shortly before the Hummer incident. On May 25, 2005, a radio station held a contest where they said they were going to offer a hundred grand to the tenth caller. Norreasha Gill was the winner when she called Hot 102 (WLTO-FM). However, she did not win the $100,000 that she thought she was receiving. Instead, she received a 100 Grand candy bar. Gill sued the radio station for $100,000.
NOT a Porn Star
Then there was the lawsuit where Ashley Patton sued after two radio DJs announced that she was a pron star on the air. This occurred in Kansas City, Kansas in April of 2012. She was not a porn star. She did not like it and she sued. The judge in this case awarded $1,000,000 in damages to Ms. Patton.
Fake Money Prank
Johnny Spezzano pulled a prank while working for WBDI-FM. This Watertown, New York radio station got in trouble with the US Secret Service. In 1999 Spezzano announced that the following day, all US $20 bills would be worthless. He stated that he had a letter from the US Treasury department. Because of this announcement, people began to race to their banks to get other forms of currency for their $20 bills. The Secret Service immediately called the station in order to put a stop to such pranks.
Why Limit It To Radio… The Toyota that Wasn’t
This case actually precedes the other two by several years. In Panama City, Florida in 2001 a restaurant called Hooters held a contest that promised the winner what they believed would be a Toyota. The contest promised that the waitress who sold the most beer to visitors to the restaurant would win the Toyota. On the day that she was to receive her prize, they blindfolded her, took her out to the parking lot, and then gave her a toy Yoda, from Star Wars. She was naturally upset and quit her job. She then sued the corporate owner of the restaurant for breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation. They settled the suit a year later for an undisclosed sum.
Pulling the wool over peoples’ eyes is not only mean-spirited; it can also land businesses into all manner of trouble. Hopefully businesses and radio stations have learned their lesson, and hopefully people who take part in these contests learn to ask more questions before they begin.
Everyone loves a prank but they can go horrible wrong. One prank by an Australian radio station may have links to a suicide of a nurse at a England hospital whom was unknowingly pulled into the prank. In that situation the DJ who was part of the prank sued her former station for failing to maintain a safe workplace. In another case a New Orleans radio station pulled a prank on a bride-to-be. The bride-to-be ended up in a psychiatric ward. As reported by the American Bar Association, she then sued for $1.3 Million.
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